Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


1 RIrF – January 1944

1st January. 

During the night Battalion took over positions Castel di Sangro – Rionero area from 2 LF.  Owing to the blizzard, the two coys 2 LF at Castel Di Sangro and the one at pt 1004 unable to withdraw.  For same reason, the 2 LF standing patrol (one platoon) at road junction 0749 not relieved by us.  Extremely difficult weather conditions.

0230 Unsuccessful attempt by one platoon C Coy to relieve 2 LF platoon at road junction 0749.

0730 Attempt repeated.  Again unsuccessful.

1000 2 LF coy from pt 1004 reach Rionero.

1030 Platoon C Coy reach road junction 0749, relieve 2 LF standing patrol.  Owing to blizzard no communications with brigade or coys.  Line parties out.

1100 Message from A Coy (relayed by D Coy) ‘Position untenable.  Trenches full of snow, which is 4 ft. deep in many places’.  CO orders A Coy move to buildings near road junction 0749.  Attempts to clear roads of snow with shovels and available wooden snow ploughs futile.  Bulldozer on its way up from Isernia but progress very slow.

1230 A Coy occupy houses 089495 and 074495.  Standing patrol at road junction 0749 (one platoon C Coy) under command A Coy.

1700 Blizzard stops.  Snow 2 ft 6 ins with drifts as much as 6-7 ft.

1800 Attempt to get rations by mule to A Coy fails.  Mules unable to get through drifts. Line parties out to repair breaks caused by weight of snow.


2nd January.

1100 Line communications to coys open.

Day spent clearing mule track to A Coy using available troops in Rionero and civilian labour.

1500 Rations to A Coy (2 days) and B and D Coys (1 days) by mule, thus supplying all till incl 4 Jan.

1700 Road back from Rionero now cleared by bulldozer which moves through town to tackle road forward from Rionero.

1745 Two coys 2 LF leave Castel Di Sangro.

2100 Coys 2 LF from Castel Di Sangro reach Rionero and after meal and rest leave by TCV.

2300 Depth of R. Sangro 4ft 9ins.  Defensive patrols by forward coys.


3rd January.

0600 Bulldozer stuck in drift 2 miles forward of Rionero. No line communication to forward coys.  Lines probably cut by bulldozer.

1400 Line communication with A Coy

1530–1600 Enemy shelled road junction 0748 – sixteen shells.

2100 C Coy less one platoon (already at road junction 0749) relieved A Coy, which went into reserve at Rionero.  Detachment Carrier Platoon (dismounted) reinforced B, C, D Coys. Two days rations to B and D Coys. Bulldozer was dug out and worked all night accompanied by working party with shovels.


4th January.

0400 Bulldozer having cleared to within 1000 yards of road junction 0749 returned to Rionero.

0900 Visit by Brigade Commander. Artillery policy:- Owing to nature of ground enemy and own guns sited well back and generally unable to reach each other. Artillery duel likely to take form of mutual shelling of each other’s infantry positions.  To discourage this, our guns will NOT shell enemy infantry positions except when movement is observed.  Whenever enemy shells our infantry positions or what they may think to be our positions, our guns will reply on known enemy localities at rate

1000 Arranged with gunners that when enemy shell our positions we will call for Strafe One – on Scontrone 0349 by 502 Field Battery; Strafe Two – on Rocca Cinquemiglia 0956 by 112 Med Battery

1206 Enemy shelled 088534 (seven rounds).  Strafe Two fired.

1730 Bulldozer renewed snow clearance and cleared up to road junction 0749.

2000 Rations by mule to B and D Coys – 4 days. Rations by MT to C Coy – 6 days. Routine defensive patrols by forward coys to watch approaches and test depth of R. Sangro (5ft).


5th January.

0100 Blizzard starts again.  All roads and tracks covered by dawn. Line communications to forward coys and brigade constantly broken during day.

1730 Impossible to get rations forward to forward coys. Routine patrols during night by forward coys.  R. Sangro 4ft 9ins.


6th January.

Blizzard continues.  Bulldozer clearing road from rear to Rionero.

1800 Weather clears.  Frost. Routine patrols by forward coys.  R. Sangro 4ft 9ins.


7th January.

0800 Bulldozer clears road up to Rionero from rear.  Digging party clearing mule track Rionero – road junction 0749.

1200 Twelve shells road junction 0749.  Strafe One fired.

1400 Mule track to road junction 0749 clear.

1800 Bulldozer starts clearing road forward of Rionero.

2120 A Coy relieves C Coy at road junction 0749.

2150 Mules reach B and D Coys with 5 days rations.

Routine night patrols.  Sangro 4ft 6ins.


8th January.

0200 Bulldozer returns to Rionero having cleared to within half mile of road junction 0749.

0900 Sunshine.  Rapid thaw.

1800 Two days rations by mule to B and D Coys.

2100 Road cleared by bulldozer up to road junction 0749.

Immediate award MM to 6977881 CSM J Meehan announced.  T/Capt JP Phelan joined.  Capt BL Kentish assumed command C Coy vice A/Capt GL Richards MM.


9th January.

1530 Enemy mortared (13 bombs) area 087497 near house occupied by A Coy.  Strafe One fired.

Brigade Admin Instruction dated 7 Jan 44 received.

Intermittent shelling during afternoon 088539 and 088544.  Lt MF Callaghan to hospital.  Routine night patrols.  Sangro 4ft.


10th January.

0830 Single enemy aircraft dropped bomb 074496 – NOT near our positions.

1200 Enemy mortared own side R. Sangro 088545.

1800 Six days rations to A Coy. Eight days rations to B and D Coys by portees with chains.

2 LF support weapons and coy cooks brought back from Castel Di Sangro.  Own mortars (2), MMGs (2) and coy cooks taken forward.  Routine night patrols. R. Sangro 4ft.


11th January.

1030 Enemy mortared demolished bridge and own side river 088545.

1150 Enemy mortared 088540.  Strafe Two fired.

2030 C Coy relieved A Coy at road junction 0749.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft 9ins


12th January.

1000 Enemy mortared 088540.  Strafe Two fired.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft 9ins.


13th January.

1140 Enemy mortared Castel Di Sangro, shelled 089540.  Strafe Two fired.

1430-1530 Enemy shelled (6 HE – 2 smoke) road junction 0749 and house occupied by C Coy 087497.  Signal line cut.  Strafe One fired – this found to have less deterrent effect than Strafe Two.  Decided to concentrate on Strafe Two in future.  T/Major HFW Holmes (2.i.c.) rejoined from hospital.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft. 6ins.


14th January.

1500 CO to Brigade Commander’s conference.  Subject:- 2 Moroccan Division advance on left of 38 Brigade.  Since this brigade is NOT advancing, possible enemy may attack 2 Moroccan Division’s open right flank.  To discourage such an attack a dummy attack by 2 LIR to be launched at first light 16 Jan on enemy positions west of Alfedena 0247.

1800 Build-up for dummy attack – one 25 pr moved fwd of Rionero and registered enemy positions west of Alfedena.

  • some Baillie Bridge equipment dumped 075497.
  • dummy tank ditched off road 0749 and track tracks in the area simulated by carrier.

Captain HF Chance, Lt GR Unwin, 2/Lts R Abel and KR Hanssen joined.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft.


15th January.

0900 OPs built 123460 for Divisional and Brigade Commanders to watch dummy attack.

1015-1045 Enemy shelled 088540. Replied with Strafe Two.

Received confirmatory notes of Brigade Commander’s conference – 14 Jan.

2100 Snow.

2145 Stopped snowing.  About 6 to 9 inches of snow fell.  Routine night patrols. R. Sangro 4ft.


16th January.

0300 Divisional and Brigade Commanders arrived to watch dummy attack.

0540 Barrage opened.  Poor visibility.  Nothing seen from OPs.

1605 Six shells 062495.

2030 A Coy relieved C Coy road junction 0749.  T/Maj. DRY Dawson to hospital.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft.


17th January.

0900 Six shells 081479.  Strafe Two fired.

1040 Enemy mortared 083503.  Strafe Two fired.

1100 CO went on leave.  Major HFW Holmes assumed command.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft.


18th January.

Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft.


19th January.

0800 Report from 502 Field Battery of attack by enemy on 2 LIR west of Montenero 0545 at first light.

0900 One platoon C Coy with OP party 502 Field Battery to point 1210 (0944).

1000 Artillery OP in position.  Nothing seen in Montenero direction.

1100 2 LIR report enemy withdrawn, leaving 5 dead, one PW who was identified as 1 Coy 576 Inf Regt (305 Inf. Div).  Platoon C Coy and artillery OP withdrawn from pt 1210.  T/Major DRY Dawson rejoined from hospital.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft.


20th January.

1000 Enemy shelled 083525.

1545 Enemy shelled (18 rounds) road junction 0749.  Strafe Two fired.

Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 4ft.  Lts RM Manson and RSM Howard joined.


21st January.

Informed of decision to withdraw 2 LIR from Montenero which is considered tactically unsound place to hold.  This battalion and 6 Innisks to readjust positions.  2 LIR to go to Brigade reserve at Forli 1443.

Day spent in recce of new positions.  Routine patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft 9ins.


22nd January.

1010 Enemy shelled 095543.  Strafe Two fired.

1245 Shelling and mortaring 095543.  Strafe Two fired.

1315 Shelling behind and forward of Rionero.  Strafe Two fired.

Orders to coy commanders for readjustment on withdrawal of 2 LIR from Montenero.

2030 C Coy relieved A Coy rd junction 0749.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft 9ins.


23rd January.

0830 Civilian reported to D Coy that 4 Germans went in house 087527.  Platoon under command Lt C. Totterton went out, killed one, captured one.  Other two escaped across R. Sangro.  PW was a corporal of 2 Coy 305 Pi Btl and stated that his unit was acting as infantry and his patrol had been sent out to lie up during day to locate our positions.

A/Maj JEM McNally rejoined from hospital.  Routine patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft 9ins


24th January.

0215 Five enemy approached standing patrol C Coy at 075496.  One killed.  Identified as 305 Pi Btl.

0310 Inaccurate fire on our positions 095543 from rear (about 104540).  SA and 3” mortars fire was returned and enemy disappeared.  Search of area revealed nothing.

0700 12 enemy seen one side of river 088544.  Disappeared on being engaged by LMGs.  Search of area revealed nothing.

1200 CO returned from leave and resumed command.

1800 One platoon A Coy occupied position DAVID. Ten shells road junction 0749.  Strafe Two fired.

Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft 9ins.

Lt FG Jenrick and 2/Lt JV Lloyd joined.


25th January.

0215 Thirteen shells (10 dud) road junction 0749.  Strafe Two fired.

1600 Sixteen shells (2 dud) 75 mm 091537.  Strafe Two fired.

1735 Vehicles 2 LIR forward to Montenero.

1830 DAVID position fully occupied by A Coy.

2330 Vehicles 2 LIR back from Montenero.  C Coy less one platoon, which remained at road junction 0749, back to Rionero.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft 9ins.

Lt EL Gibbon to hospital.


26th January.

0300 Marching troops 2 LIR clear of Rionero.

0500 Platoon C Coy from road junction 0749 back to Rionero.

Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft. 9ins.


27th January.

Warned by Brigade to consider possibilities of raid in Rocca Cinquemiglia 0956.

1940 Lt GR Unwin and 2 men (D Coy) set out on patrol to recce approaches to Rocca Cinquemiglia.  Crossed river at 081538, followed river downstream.  4 men seen 098553.  Small group seen 102553.  Patrol moved along east slope of rocky feature running from 103555 to 106564 and reached 102568 where it was fired on at range of about 80 yards from the right.  Lay up and returned direct to river at 108554.  Back at D Coy 0630.


28th January.

1400 Enemy mortared Castel Di Sangro.  Strafe Two fired.

Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft 9ins.


29th January.

2010 Coy relieved A Coy DAVID position.

Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft 9ins.


30th January.  

Brigade to be relieved this sector by 1 Carpathian Rifle Brigade Group.

1000 Reps 1 Carpathian Rifle Battalion arrived.

1730 Road junction 0749 shelled.  Strafe Two fired.

1830 Lt GR Unwin again tool recce patrol of 2 men and observed enemy at 098553 again – this time from rear.  Apparently a listening post occupied by night only.  Major PCS Heidenstam joined.


31st January.

‘Admin Arrangement Rionero Area’ issued to incoming unit.  Routine night patrols.  R. Sangro 3ft 9ins.  Capt RW Collis joined.